• UFC 144

Flickers of Pride not enough for poor Rampage

ESPN staff
February 26, 2012

Rampage Jackson produced two huge reminders of the old Pride days in his UFC 144 co-main event with Ryan Bader, but ultimately his fighting style proved as defunct as the promotion itself as he dropped a unanimous decision in Japan.

Jackson poured his soul into the Pride competition, memorable losses to Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio Shogun Rua every bit as important as wins over Ricardo Arona and Chuck Liddell.

Upon his return, his performance was a tribute to those great Pride days, days that he initially took to the UFC. Wins over Liddell, Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva will always place Rampage as one of the best light-heavyweights the UFC has seen, but that Rampage was not in attendance in Japan.

The famous Pride music was there for the walkout. The unforgettable slam was there midway through round two as Bader found himself hitting the canvas head-first.

But aside from that, Rampage was a shadow of his former self - his weigh-in issues clearly a problem. No speed, no cardio, no real ability to dominate the cage - Rampage failed to do the one thing he promised the Japanese crowd: entertain.

After spreading his arms early in the first round, as Bader backed away intelligently, Rampage barely connected as Bader clinched, jabbed and then found his target with a big right and even better knee.

Rampage only threatened victory in the second, slamming Bader on his head to make Arona wince. However, Bader responded with two takedowns of his own, mixed in with some tidy ground work to take the second round comfortably.

The third was all Bader, and as the final klaxon sounded Rampage barely had the courage to lift himself off the mat. He was beaten well, and it was Bader who had to talk to Joe Rogan - the man Rampage had criticised earlier in the week.

"I was looking to jab, move, use my range. We wanted to set the tempo right away. I was rocked a little bit [by the slam] but I was fine," Bader said.

The biggest win of Bader's career, signalling one of the low points of Rampage's story. The word 'retirement' cannot be far away.

Elsewhere, Mark Hunt outclassed Cheick Kongo for a devastating first-round knockout in the heavyweight division, Jake Shields proved too savvy for Yoshihiro Akiyama to end his losing streak at welterweight, and Anthony Pettis produced the Knockout of the Night against Joe Lauzon with a head kick at lightweight.

Hatsu Hioki advanced his position in the featherweight division with a unanimous decision win over Bart Palaszweski, while comeback of the night had to go to Tim Boetsch, who was outclassed for two rounds by Yushin Okami before he stopped the former No.1 middleweight contender with a series of uppercuts in the third.

UFC 144 results:
Ben Henderson def. Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision
Ryan Bader def. Quinton Jackson via unanimous decision
Mark Hunt def. Cheick Kongo via first-round TKO
Jake Shields def. Yoshihiro Akiyama via unanimous decision
Tim Boetsch def. Yushin Okami via third-round TKO
Hatsu Hioki def. Bart Palaszewski via unanimous decision
Anthony Pettis def. Joe Lauzon via first-round KO
Takanori Gomi def. Eiji Mitsuoka via second-round TKO
Vaughan Lee def. Norifumi Yamamoto via submission (armbar)
Riki Fukuda def. Steve Cantwell via unanimous decision
Chris Cariaso def. Takeya Mizugaki by unanimous decision
Issei Tamura def. Tiequan Zhang via second-round KO

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